|Beginners Guide to Ham Radio
What is Amateur Radio?
Amateur radio is a community of people that use radio transmitters and receivers to communicate
with other Amateur radio operators. The things that amateur radio operators do with their radios are
diverse as the people themselves.
Amateur radio operators are often called ham radio operators or simply "hams." (The origin of this
nickname is for all practical purposes lost. Although some people still speculate about, few agree and
even few care. Amateur radio operators proudly call themselves hams and nobody knows why.)
There are about 600 thousand hams in the United States.
Ham radio operators are licensed by the United States Government and enjoy a far more priviledges
of radio operation than "CB" radio operators do. With these priviledges come responisbilities and
rules for the operation of an amateur radio station. Specifically, there are a few things that hams are
not allowed to do:
1) Hams are not allowed to do anything with their radios that makes them money in way.
Ham radio is a hobby, but that doesn't mean it's completely frivoulous.
2) Ham radio operator cannot `broadcast' to the public. This means that ham radio transmissions are
meant to be received by other ham radio operatators. While a short-wave radios or scanners will
allow you to listen to the ham radio bands, what you will hear is hams talking to other hams and not
music or other radio programs of `general' interest.
Within these (and other) guidelines, however, hams are empowered to do just about everything that
goverment and private radio stations are allowed to do.
Things you can to do with amateur radio
Talk around the world - With HF radios hams can talk to other hams in literally any part of the
Talk around town - With small portable VHF and UHF transceivers hams enjoy extremely
reliable communications within their local community.
QRP - Communicating with "very low power" is a challange that many hams enjoy. QRP is
usually practiced on the HF bands.
Packet radio - The internet over ham radio? Not really ... but ham radio operators enjoy a
digital network of their own, all without wires!
Internation morse code - Forget it ... You can get a license without knowing one beep or
boop of morse code. If you want to, though, it's still allowed.
Amateur television - It's just like real television because it is real television.
Slow Scan TV - Send pictures around the world for little or no cost.
Contests - You can put your radio operating skills up against other hams and teams of hams.
Emergency and other volunteer services - Floods, huricanes, mudslides, earthquakes, ice
storms ... when ever `normal' communcations go out, hams are ready to use their radios to
provide emergency communication services to their communites.
Satelite communications - Hams have their own satelites. (Amateur's satelites are
easy to use too.
Traffic handling - "Ham telegrams" are used to send messages to people around the world at
no cost to the sender or the recipient; all done by ham radio operators volunteering their time